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Posts Tagged ‘inventors

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph”*…

 

Sadly, just not necessarily a good photograph…

uninteresting photographs

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A few samples drawn from the stream of images you’ll find at Uninteresting Photographs.

* Susan Sontag

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As we search for meaning, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that John Wesley Hyatt received one of the patents that allowed him to win the $10,000 prize offered for a practical substitute for ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls.  The material he used– celluloid– was the first true plastic… and the basis of photographic film until it was replaced by acetate in the 1950s.

In his long career, Hyatt secured several hundred patents, among them: the first injection molding machine, processes for sugarcane milling and fruit/vegetable juice extraction, roller bearings, and a multiple-stitch sewing machine.  Hyatt founded the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company in 1892 in Harrison, New Jersey; then, in 1895, hired a young Alfred P. Sloan, son of a major investor in the company, as a draftsman.  By 1905, Sloan had become president; in 1916, the company was sold to General Motors… where Sloan went on to become its transformative president, and the architect of the auto industry as we know it.

John_Wesley_Hyatt,_Jr source

 

 

“Everything around us is scale dependent. It’s woven into the fabric of the universe.”*…

 

What do you, your town, and your employer all have in common? Scalability. According to physicist Geoffrey West, there are mathematical principles that govern the growth and longevity of complex organisms, crowded cities, and even corporations…

A fascinating interview with West about his new book, Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies: “What Do Organisms, Crowded Cities, and Corporations Have in Common?

See West talk about his work in a the Long Now Seminar.

[TotH to @jhagel]

* Geoffrey West

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As we get small, we might send illuminated birthday greetings to John Walker; he was born on this date in 1781.  A chemist from Stockton-on-Tees, Walker invented friction matches in 1827; he had accidentally discovered their “secret” the prior year when he mixed potassium chlorate and antimony sulfide, which he bound to a sulphur-coated stick (with gum).

He recorded the first sale as “Sulphurata Hyper-Oxygenata Frict,” but by the second sale (five months later), he was getting the hang of naming: “friction lights.”  He sold them in boxes of 50 for a shilling, with a folded slip of sandpaper as a striking surface.  He ultimately trade-named them “Congreves,” in honor of Sir William Congreve, known for his invention of military rockets.

A tin Congreves matchbox (1827)

source

Written by LW

May 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”*…

 

Robot-assisted farming

It’s easy to chuckle at the prognostications of yore– where’s my jet pack?!?  But as long-time readers will recall, there was one writer whose predictions were uncannily on the money:  Jules Verne.

His Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Verne’s writings caught the imagination of his countrymen.  As Singularity Hub reports,

Starting in 1899, a commercial artist named Jean-Marc Côté and other artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of picture cards as inserts, according to Matt Noval who writes for the Smithsonian magazine. The images were to depict how life in France would look in a century’s time, no doubt heavily influenced by Verne’s writings. Sadly, they were never actually distributed. However, the only known set of cards to exist was discovered by Isaac Asimov, who wrote a book in 1986 called “Futuredays” in which he presented the illustrations with commentary…

In what some French people might consider an abomination, one illustration depicted the modern kitchen as a place of food science. While synthetic food in commercial products is sadly more common today than we’d like to admit (sorry Easy Cheese lovers, but I’m calling you out), the rise of molecular gastronomy in fine dining has made food chemistry a modern reality. It may seem like food science has its limitations, but one only needs to consider efforts to grow meat in a laboratory to see how far technology may go…

“Food Science”

See them all at “19th Century Artists Predicted the Future in This Series of Postcards.”

[A re-post, inspired by this piece in Upworthy.]

* Niels Bohr

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As we console ourselves that, while the future may be another country, we may still speak the language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, received patents on four adding machine applications (No. 388,116-388,119), the first U.S. patents for a “Calculating-Machine” that the inventor would continue to improve and successfully market.  The American Arithmometer Corporation of St. Louis, later renamed The Burroughs Corporation, became– with IBM, Sperry, NCR, Honeywell, and others– a major force in the development of computers.  Burroughs also gifted the world his grandson, Beat icon William S. Burroughs.

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“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books”*…

 

Just in time for summer reading…

Goldman Sachs: financial giant, hotbed of enthusiasm for subprime mortgages, and hapless recipient of your hard-earned money. Who better to tell you what to read?

Well, now they are telling you what to read, in the form of a recently-published recommended book list. We’re talking about people who incurred $550 million in fines for schemes to turn a profit on the civilization-threatening financial crisis they themselves had helped create, and the line between genius and chutzpah is notoriously hard to draw, so, yeah, I’d like to know what’s on these folks’ bedside tables.

First things first, and no big shock: they’re really into capitalism…

More at “Don’t know what to read? Let Goldman Sachs tell you.”  The list is here.

[Image above, sourced here]

* Arthur Schopenhauer

As we pack for the beach, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Sylvan Goldman introduced the first shopping cart in his Humpty Dumpty grocery store in Oklahoma City.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes”*…

 

Try your hand at recognizing products from the diagrams, like the one above, submitted with their patent applications: from the collection in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, “Can You Guess the Invention Based on These Patent Illustrations?

* Lawrence Durrell

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As we turn up the tinkering, we might spare a thought for Freelan Oscar Stanley; he died on this date in 1940.  Working with his twin brother Francis, Stanley developed (in 1883) a dry plate photographic process, and started the very successful Stanley Dry Plate Company (sold to Eastman Kodak in 1905).

But Stanley and his brother are bettered remembered for their second enterprise, the Stanley Motor Company. The brothers began working on steam powered cars in 1897, and built thousands of them them until the 1920s.  At racing events, The Stanley Steamer often competed successfully against gasoline powered cars; indeed, in 1906, it set a world record for fastest mile (28.2 seconds, at a speed of 127 mph).

It’s worth observing that Freelan Stanley shares his passing date with Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, who died on this date in 1804.  In 1769, Cugnot, a military engineer, invented the world’s first fuel-propelled vehicle–a gun tractor commissioned by the French government.  The following year he produced the first mechanically-driven “horseless carriage”; his steam tricycle, driven by a steam engine, carried four passengers and was the forerunner of the modern motor car– and more specifically, of the Stanley Brothers’ Steamers.

The Stanley Twins, Freelan back/right

source

 

Written by LW

October 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

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